Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Looking Forward and Godward (Full Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

In Psychology, our past shackles our present, hence we are still bound by these events in our life that affect our very present. But the alternative is looking to the future, letting the future—which is spotless and still clear—define the things that we do in our present.

Covenantal Background:

Likewise, God calls us to “look forward to what lies ahead of us” (Phil. 3:13). In the same verse, it states that we need to forget what lies behind us. This phrase does not mean that our past is inessential, but it contextually means that we do not need to be preoccupied with the things or events in the past because it pulls us away from what God intended for us. It distracts us to reach the goal and forward-looking.

We know that the “futuristic” way of Thomas Frey is based on a historical survey, research, and other secular sciences. But we need to understand that even in the Bible, God calls us to do likewise. Remember that we are told to “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). The term “conduct” means to follow or to live like you are part of this empire or kingdom. Paul is telling the church at Philippi to live as if they are already in heaven. Why? Because all Christians are already kingdom citizens.

Main Idea:

To be clear, take note of this, the Israelites looked towards the future of the coming Messiah. Once it was fulfilled in Christ, the disciples looked towards the inauguration of the kingdom of God commenced in His death and resurrection. Afterward, the early church, together with the disciples, after the ascension of Christ, looks toward the future return of Christ, His second coming for the completion and consummation of all things. Indeed, throughout the Bible, the people of God are looking ahead, forward-looking, and focusing on what is set before them in the future.

In other words, Israelites hang on to this messianic hope—future-looking, focusing on what is ahead of them—both forward and Godward. It is in this certain future that they still have hope—a living hope.

Now, in verse 31, it speaks about the last days—we are living the last days, which is also known as the days are coming. It was inaugurated during the realization of the “new covenant.” What is this new covenant? We learn in verse 31 that it speaks about the unity of the divided kingdom—they were both included in the covenantal promise.

Focusing on verses 33 and 34, understanding that this new covenant is different from the old one. In verse 33, God said, “I will put my laws in their minds and write it on their hearts,” this statement alludes to the 10 commandments which were written in the two tablets given to Moses. Being part of the new covenant entails that this law is now in our hearts. These are no longer isolated nor ignorant to us, but instead, we know that these things are part of our daily living.

This also points to Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Finally, the gift of forgiveness that God will no longer remember our sins is only possible through the availability of this new covenant. That is why Israelites eagerly waited for the coming messiah because they will be once and for all forgiven. Being forgiven entails being put back to the promised land, having the blessings of God, anyone now will be released from the bondage of sin; those who are part of the new covenant will now have the opportunity to have shalom—wholeness and flourishing life.

Similarly, as the Israelites looked forward and Godward in the coming of the messiah—fulfilled in Christ, we—therefore, as Christians—also need to do likewise, to look forward and Godward in the coming of Christ for the completion and restoration of all things. In His return, the Celestial city will be brought down, the presence of God is now felt in our faces; no more cry, no more pain, no more depression—it will just be full of joy, love, peace, and wholeness.

Conclusion:

Looking into Hebrews 12:1-3, it shows us that the idea of “forward and Godward looking” permeates the entire Bible. We are called to “look unto Jesus,” we already tackled that focusing our life on Christ is both forward and Godward. It is in this manner of living individually and as a church that we can truly experience and maximize the goodness of our Lord and Savior.

With the help of the Spirit who leads and points us to Christ, we—UCBC—will be able to stand firm, keep the faith, moving forward while clinging to the covenantal promises of God! Let us contemplate the beauty and the unspeakable joy of God’s faithfulness to our church in pursuing godliness, future hope, and full satisfaction in Christ.

 

by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
April 25, 2021

*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.

 

 

Text: Proverbs 2:1-10

Loving God with All Your Mind (Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

Wisdom is not achieved through our own capabilities or the years that we lived and experienced life in this world. But rather, wisdom is given to us by God (verse 6) and placed into our hearts (verse 10). Remember that wisdom is not merely knowing what to do but related to flourishment or towards the wholeness of one’s personhood.

The Problem:

In our work, e-mail, LMS, online systems, and payrolls are essential. In schools, online classes, submission of assignments, and resources are all through the Internet. Even in our church, nowadays, live streaming, zoom conference call, and even giving of tithes are all possible because of the digital technology. Indeed, there are lots of benefits that digitality has given to us.

But, also, because of the digital age of information—the access to Uncle Google (everything is answerable), to Auntie Amazon (everything can be found here), and to “Hey, Siri” or “Alexa,” people tend to become “Anti-intellectuals.”

Anti-intellectualism is a simple sense is accepting whatever is taught to you without being critical about it. This mere attitude is a result of slothfulness and mediocrity. Just like how the “lemmings” follow others because that is the trend. Not even thinking why the person is running. Or a purposeless pursuit of something without any critical reason at all.

Sadly, anti-intellectualism leads to pragmatism and subjectivism or relativism which are both saying that “thinking” is essential but only if it is servant to our desires or if it is only helpful to our personal agenda. Pragmatism says that this works because it worked before, and to others. So, we apply things not because we studied them but because we just conform to what others are doing. Again, the same with the lemmings and the dogs.
While relativism is post-modern thinking where all truth is subjective or relative. What you say may be true to yourself, but untrue to others. You may think that it is right, but for others this is wrong. That is why it is difficult to communicate the gospel of Christ nowadays because of this working knowledge.

Main Idea:

But the Bible calls us to think critically and to know deeper, opposing all the characteristics and philosophical ideas that we just talked about a while ago. “To know” and “to fear” God are both pointing to the purpose of our life, to knowing God. To know God through thinking is to glorify God. In Matthew 22:36-37, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

Returning to our passage, this knowledge or wisdom in the book of Proverbs is later known as the Lady Wisdom in the whole context of the book. Wisdom is God’s gift to the world and an act of His general revelation to all people. It speaks and points to God’s glory. But ultimately, its goal is to lead us in knowing God.

Gnosis or epignnosis literally means knowledge or knowing something. But it is more of an experiential knowledge not just informational. In Biblical context, knowledge is not mere information inside our head, but rather it is something that we know out of first-hand experience or cause by having a direct relationship to the object.
Truly, to know God is to have experienced Him. Having the knowledge of God is not knowing God in our minds, but also experiencing Him wholly in our life. Hence, the verses in Prov 2:7-10.

The “fear” pertains to the reverence, holiness of God. Not something scary or wrathful of God’s nature. But for us to comprehend the goodness of God and His grace to us. It is not the “boo” or the expression we shout if we want to scare someone, but it is a “peek-a-boo” too little children if we want to make them smile. This kind of fear gives us comfort, peace, and knowledge that this person playing or giving time to me is someone who loves me.

Conclusion:

So, here, in verses 1-4, it calls us to (1) receive His words by making our ears attentive to Him, (2) treasuring His commandments by inclining our hearts to Him, and (3) desiring His words like silver or hidden treasure.

Finally, the ultimate goal of “knowing” and “thinking” is to know the truth—the absolute truth. For us to be sanctified by the truth through His word of truth (John 17:17) because it is through knowing the truth that truth sets us free (John 8:32). Truly, this truth, the absolute truth is personified in Christ the only Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

 

by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
April 18, 2021

*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.

 

 

 

 

Text: Romans 10:13-17

Missional Identity: Proclaiming Hope to the World (Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

Now we will explore the last identity that we have as Christians. Understanding ourselves, our core identity, makes us realize that we have a purpose. This purpose, first and foremost, is to glorify God in Christ by the Spirit. It is my purpose to shake our comfort and remind you all of our duty as Christians.

Providentially, we are not just called to sit around the church nor to enjoy having fellowship with each other. (Ilustration: Johannah Arceno) We clap our hands every time there are special numbers, talents but never have I heard that we clapped our hands for those who have evangelized or bring someone to Christ.

Main Idea:

Verse 13 alludes to Joel 2:32 which is also related to verses 9 to 10. This verse, also, encapsulates the major theme of the book of Romans which can be found in (1:17b), “…But the righteous man shall live by faith,” and (5:1), “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Verses 14-15 are rhetorical questions by Paul emphasizing the significance of proclaiming the gospel. In reverse order, for a person to be saved is to have (1) a preacher sent from God, (2) proclamation of the message, (3) hearing the message, (4) believing the message.

1. The Preacher

In the context of the ministry of proclaiming, we are all called to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). Evangelism is not another department or an isolated ministry only for those who are gifted. But this duty is given to all Christians. Ultimately, as conformers of Christ, we ought to follow the ultimate preacher—Jesus himself. He proclaimed His life, purpose, and promise to His people, and even after His resurrection (with the disciples in Emmaus road). Even, prior to His ascension, He commanded us to preach.

2. Proclaiming the Message

The word “preach or proclaim” in Greek is “kerusso.” In literal meaning, it means, “to herald” or to announce publicly. In the Biblical time, the disciples preached the gospel about Christ on a public platform. There were no microphones, nor megaphones, hence the need to proclaim it aloud so others will hear the message.

You are the most pitiful person if your entire purpose in life only of this world. Material things, money, success, leisure, comfort, and even family. I’m not saying there are not important, but if these are only your goal in life then you’re truly wrong.

3. Hearing the Message

Why the gospel message? The term “gospel” literally means good news. It is as if someone already discovered the 100% cure—take note, not just a vaccine—but the ultimate cure against the Covid-19 virus. So that is the good news, however, it is not yet “fully” good news to everyone until it is announced publicly. Because it can be kept in secret, and people are ignorant about this cure. Hence, the significance to proclaim this cure so everyone can give them hope and see that there is a future. In the same way, having this hope is not fully applied unless people believe the message.

4. Believing the message (John 3:16)

Remember John 3:16, “for those whosoever believe in Him” shall be saved. Those who only believe can fully enjoy the benefits of the gospel message. Returning to our illustration, take note—this is not the vaccine alone but the ultimate cure—only those who will willingly receive the cure will be cured and be protected in his or her entire life.

But the Christian good news is more than physical illnesses, and way beyond cure from Covid-19. Our good news is that our sins will be forgiven, made justified, righteous, holy, and pure that gives us the benefit to be in the presence of God, the grace to stand in front of the gates of heaven, and live an eternal life without pain, suffering, trials: no more anxieties, no more sleep deprivation, no more crying, no more depression, and no more sin. That is our good news, and this gospel is grounded in Christ.

Verse 16 explains that it is not our duty to convert a person but rather to focus on proclaiming God’s word. Do not be mistaken that you can change someone’s heart. You cannot. Hence, do not be impatient nor be disappointed if a person did not respond positively to your witnessing. Let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts, not you. Your main calling is to bring the message of God to them, then pray to God for the rest of it. It is God who makes a seed in one’s heart grow, but we are the instruments to plant these seeds—which is the Word of God—in their hearts through proclamation. Again, it is the Spirit that converts and transforms a soul.

Therefore, in verse 17, the proclamation is significant in equipping one’s hope. And this hope is in the words of Christ—known as the gospel about Christ. But if taken literally, these words are still being spoken by Christ through His messengers, that is us—Christians. The only time that you can tell that “Christ has spoken to you,” is only when it is through His Word. And we know that is true because it is the Spirit that applies these words into our hearts as an illuminating power transforming our lives both inward and outward.

Conclusion:

When was the last time you share Christ with someone?

When was the last time the church added a new member through evangelism and not through a change of membership?

When was the last time the church baptized?

When was the last time you asked for prayers for courage to share the Word of God?

 

by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
April 11, 2021

*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.

 

 

 

 

Text: Romans 6:1-11

Immersed Identity: The Essence of Baptism in Church Perspective (Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

A diploma, even it is just a paper, is valuable. It symbolizes a person’s education and academic journey. Operating in this idea, baptism is also a symbolical act, a representation of something valuable. Like my diploma, it was the seminary in Kentucky that signified that little piece of paper, also, it was God who signified the ordinance of baptism. It represents something meaningful, something important about Christianity.

Main Idea:

Nowadays, the church delays baptism because of the pandemic, social distancing, and the lack of a place to perform the ordinance. Sadly, we do not see it as a significant, or essential part of the church. Looking back, in Matt 28:19-20, we are not only called to go and make disciples but to also baptize the followers of Christ incorporating them into the body of the new covenant family, the church.

First, Christ told them His disciples to preach the gospel; next, Baptize them; before, Teaching them all God’s commands. But it seems different to our understanding, we put the teaching first, assuming that those who have not put their faith in Christ have the same privilege as the believers. First, preach; then baptize; finally, teach them. With this thought, take note of this, baptism is not optional.

By studying baptism, to those who have been baptized, this will be a reminder to all of you about the summary of the gospel of Christ; to those who have not been baptized, this is a call for you that if you follow Christ, you need to be baptized; lastly, to the entirety of the church, this is a reminder for us that baptism is a significant act of the church as a whole to do this duty of Christ’s ordinance.

MEANING
Baptism, in a simple word, is a representation of your death and resurrection in Christ and that you are Christ-follower who willingly submits to His will (Matt 28:19-20). It is a confession, a communion, a profession, and a proclamation of a person who has put faith in Christ.

  1. Confession. You are confessing that you were once a sinner saved by Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore, this act is a commitment or a pledge that you will follow Christ, especially starting the day of your baptism.
  2. Communion. In baptism, it signifies both vertical and horizontal communion. Vertically, communion with God in Christ, and horizontally, in the body of Christ the regenerated church.
  3. Profession. Baptism is an open declaration that you belong to Jesus. You are publicly declaring that “JESUS IS LORD.” In Jamieson’s illustration, it is as if you are wearing a jersey showing that you are part of “Team Jesus.”
  4. Proclamation. You are publicly expressing the gospel of Christ to all the witnesses of your baptism. It symbolizes the death and resurrection of Christ—the very core of the gospel of Christ’s redemptive story.

MODE

The biblical mode of baptism is immersion. Other denominations practice sprinkling, pouring over the head, and partial dipping. These are all grounded in their covenant theology. But for us, as Baptists, the people of the Book, we practice what the New Testament church practiced.

Furthermore, in Greek, the literal translation of baptism is “baptizo.” Technically, it was more of a transliteration than translation, but the literal meaning of baptizo is immersion or to [fully] dip. Both in practice and in word study, the biblical mode of baptism is immersion.

MANNER

Baptism, as noted a while ago, is administrated by the church or a church activity. Who can baptize? There is no explicit verse or any prescription to who will baptize. But since this is an act of the church, it is logically true that a representative of the body will be the one who will administer the baptism. This representative can be the pastor, the elders, or even a deacon, or any church leader appointed by the church. This is not solely a pastoral work, but rather church work. That is why, we need to choose or elect our elders, deacons, and other necessary church leaders.

“Baptism is the divinely instituted ‘point of entry’ into the covenant community” (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:27; Cf. R. Stanton Norman 134). Meaningfully, baptism is a requirement to be part of the local family—the covenanted body of Christ with one another.

Conclusion:

What is next after baptism? Church membership, discipleship (teaching), service in the ministry (nourishing one another), and missions (proclaiming Jesus). Let me also add, the parents need to talk to their children. Last Friday, after we reviewed the gospel hand, we briefly tackled baptism. In which I also asked if they understood the meaning of baptism. Even though most of them said yes, some are still hesitant to follow the ordinance of baptism.

 

by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
March 28, 2021

*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.

 

 

Recommended Readings:

  • John S. Hammett, “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” in The Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination, eds. Douglas Blount and Joseph Wooddell (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 71-75.
  • Bobby Jamieson, Understanding Baptism (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016).
  • R. Stanton Norman, The Baptist Way: Distinctives of a Baptist Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2005).
  • Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2006).

 

 

Text: Colossians 3:13

Forgiven and Forgiving Identity: A Biblical and Holistic Healing (Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

With all the hatred and unforgiveness around the world today, oppression of the military government in Myanmar, Asian American hate in Western countries, corruption, killings, and injustices in various countries, it seems difficult to forgive these oppressors.

Main Idea:

What is forgiveness? When the Bible uses the word “Forgiveness” it always carries the decision to release a person from the debt (obligation) that resulted when they injured you. Contextually, it also means, “to lavishly grace one another” or “to freely give to one another.”

God’s Character

Dr. Bryan Maier, a biblical counselor, and Christian clinical psychologist published work about Forgiveness and Justice. In one part he just simply noted that “God forgives because that is just the way He is. He is always ready to forgive and nothing slows Him down, because He is always love.”

Truly, this is true. Forgiveness, first and foremost, is grounded in the character of God:

  • The ultimate example of Jesus on the calvary (Luke 23:34)
  • “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.” (Neh. 9:17)
  • You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” (Psa. 86:5)

Christian Character

Yet, we need to remember, first, that as Christian we have a forgiven identity. Christians are forgiven since we have confessed our sins and believe in our hearts. In 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Providentially, God’s word states, in Hebrews 10:17, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Focusing on verse 13, in our passage, “just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also.” Out of God’s forgiveness, receiving this forgiven identity of ours. Our identity in Christ becomes a fount of forgiveness, we need to channel this overflowing gracious forgiveness of Christ to others as well.

Christ reminded his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer, in Luke 11:4, “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Being able to forgive is a manifestation of a forgiven identity. Only those who experienced forgiveness can truly forgive.

  • 1. Unforgiveness is Not an Option

Paul reiterated this reminder in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We have sinned against Him, yet when we sought His forgiveness, He canceled all our obligations.  He wants us to do the same to those who have sinned against us. 

Remember that Jesus modeled forgiveness to us. How great is this forgiveness? In Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” In the first chapter of Colossians verses 13-14, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” This is the gospel narrative of forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” These numbers are symbolical meaning, never-ending forgiveness.

Another, Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Christ reminded us that we ought to forgive so we will not hinder our prayers to Him; this is parallel to what we have learned last week in Ephesians, during our Bible study, about grieving the Spirit. Remember that it is the Spirit who intercedes our prayers to God in Christ.

  • 2. Other-Centered

God does not forgive to make himself feel better. God forgives for the sake of the recipient of his forgiveness. A good example, the parable of the prodigal Son in Luke 15:1-32. The father forgives for the sake of his dying, pitiful, and sorrowful son.

In Psalm 32:1, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.” The one who was blessed was the recipient of forgiveness. Also, in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  • 3. Ask for Forgiveness and Repentance

Grounding again in our main passage in Colossians 3:13, “just as the Lord” or in another version, “just as in Christ,” we need to understand that Christ has forgiven us because we have confessed our sins and repented (1 John 1:9).

In Luke 17:3-4, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Indeed, in Christ’s finished work, we can forgive any time as long as we are always prepared to forgive. But remember, just like what I said a while ago, that we need to balance and discern justice and forgiveness. In God’s way, repentance of the oppressor is needed in order to have the fullness of forgiveness.

How do we discern an Authentic Repentance? First, No demands. Second, Willingness. Third, and the last, Change of character.

While the offender is unrepentant, we must always be ready to forgive. And if time will not come that the offender apologizes to you even if you are seeking for this person’s repentance, then put your whole trust in God that one day justice will be complete and final.

Conclusion:

Truly, this is a biblical survey of forgiveness. But why holistic? Holistic means wholly, the totality of one’s personhood. Holistic healing is total biblical forgiveness. Total forgiveness is grounded in God’s character channeled to His children.

Only those who can forgive truly and wholly can experience holistic healing. Remember, unforgiveness is not an option, also that it is other-centered as a contrast to secular healing, and lastly, repentance of the oppressor is needed for total forgiveness balancing God’s justice and mercy.

 

by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
March 21, 2021

*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.

 

 

Text: Epistle of Jude

Confessional Identity: Contend for the Faith (Understanding our Statement of Faith) Sermon Manuscript

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Background:

Truly, during the early church time, other than what we learned in the past sermons on the false teachings of the Judaizers which are similar to pharisaic laws and legalism, there were more false teachings that tried to penetrate, divide, destroy, and corrupt the Christian faith.

First on the list is Arianism. Founded by Arius, it teaches that there was a time that Christ was not God. It rejects the pre-existence of Christ and reduces Christ’s deity. Pelagianism teaches that we can earn our own salvation by just living a moral life. Antinomianism (or Hyper-grace) leads to having a license to sin since God has already forgiven us; so, it is fine to continue living in sin. Socinianism, like Arianism, but leading to Unitarianism which rejects the Trinity.

Nowadays, we have the modern-Pharisee or Legalism, which tends to focus excessively on following the law strictly which diminishes the essence of grace. Hyper-individualism rejecting the essence of the community or the covenanted family; this can also lead to entitlement. Extreme pragmatism, solely depending on the practical things and undermining the spiritual factors, wisdom, and providence of God. I can do this all day; next, Prosperity Gospel focuses on the material or earthly things that we can have rather than the important and eternal things. Pantheism (universe) believes that God is one with the universe or nature rather than the creation declares the glory of God and is not God himself. Moreover, the eastern ideology of Karma, and other extra-biblical revelation, etc.

Twofold Direction:

  • Contend for the Faith, Stand Firm (Defense Mode)

With all these threats and false teachings, the church both before and today are urged to contend for the faith (see also Phil. 1:27). The “faith,” in verse 3 of our passage, “that was once delivered to the saints” pertains to the “rule of faith” (Tertullian and Irenaeus) or standardized collection of the apostle’s teaching of Christ. Meaning, a “canon” before the canonized version of the early church fathers.

Historically speaking, these opposition and false teaching towards Christianity went beyond the early church of the apostles. The ancient church in the third and fourth centuries had the struggle with Arianism. This ideology was later declared heresy. In 325 AD, the church leaders, bishops, ministers, and theologians met in Nicaea, this event is known as the Council of Nicaea. They have established and produced the Nicene Creed. Even so, prior to this event, there was already the Apostle’s Creed which was used as the basis of the Nicene Creed.

In the Reformation period, these creeds later became the basis to form a more comprehensive doctrinal statement. These are known as “The Confessions.” For the Puritans in Scotland, they had the Westminster Confessions of Faith (1647)—this is for the Presbyterians. For the Congregationalists, based on the WCF, they had the Savoy Declaration (1658). For the Reformed Churches, they adhere to the Three Forms of Unity which consists of the Canon of Dordt (1618/9), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and Belgic Confession (1561). For the Baptists, Orthodox Creed (1679), First London Baptist Confession (1644), then updated to London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).

The purpose of the confessions was to declare separation or defend their faith from the Roman Catholics, the Church of England, and other Protestants. This was similar to the purpose of the creeds, they function as a fence to defend the sheep from outside threats, and to guide them to not be led astray. This is the reason why these are important.

  • Build Up and Keep (or Guard) In (Attack Mode)

Now for the attack mode, after Jude warning the early church about the false teachers, in the last verses of our passage, it calls us to “build up…and keep in” the church. This guarding is more in an attack mode than being on the defense. This is the antidote to the false teachers. Indeed, as said, the way to reduce the effect of those who try to corrupt, divide, and destroy the church is to live proactively as a follower of Christ (cf. “contend for the faith,” v. 3).

First, prayers. Praying in harmony with the leading of the Holy Spirit, rather than according to one’s own agenda. Second, exemplify Love, Mercy, and Hope. Christians keep themselves in God’s love by growing strong doctrinally, persevering in prayer, and “waiting” for the Lord’s coming. Third, proclaiming the gospel to save others. In Greek, “Sozo” means to lead them to faith in Christ. We cannot save a person, but we can lead them to Christ to be saved. Finally, mortifying sin. We need to daily overcome our sins and put them to death.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, let us contend for the faith that was passed on to us. We, UCBC, carry the gospel of Christ that was from the Apostles, who were willing to die to defend the faith by faithfully living in Christ by the Spirit for the glory of the Father. We, by God’s grace, keep ourselves away from any act or deed that is divisive, unbiblical, and ungodly. And by the sanctified wisdom given to each and every one, our leaders, our pastor, and mentors, through the perspective of the Theological Triage, in Biblical lens, and Christ-centered approach, may we always be sensitive with the leading of the Spirit, His illumination of the Word in our heart and mind, and humble ourselves in reverence to God, our Father.

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno
March 14, 2021

 

*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.

 

 

Recommended References:

Albert Mohler, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” Albert Mohler, July 12, 2005, https://albertmohler.com/2005/07/12/a-call-for-theological-triage-and-christian-maturity

Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage (Wheaton, IL: Crossway/TGC, 2020).

Rhyne Putman, When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020)

Trevin Wax, “Theological Triage in the 21st Century,” The Gospel Coalition, June 25, 2020, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/theological-triage-in-the-21st-century/

 

 

 

Introduction:

Today, we will learn about Priorities of Our Identity, pursuing kingdom treasures over earthly treasures.

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Background:
The word “reward” is repeated seven times throughout the context of chapter 6 of Matthew. “Reward” here, in the Second Temple Jewish perspective, speaks about having a flourishing life. For Jonathan Pennington, he translated it to “macarisms/ asherisms.” It means, having a blessed life, a joyful one, or a purposeful living. Yet, all these meanings are inadequate when it comes to trying to limit them in the English language. During our class last Summer, I introduce to him the Filipino word, “ginhawa.”
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In the context of Filipino culture, “maginhawang buhay” or flourishing life is the goal of each Filipino. This is why we work hard to achieve the state of “maginhawang buhay,” abundance, contentment, fulfilled-life, happiness, or convenience. Likewise, there is no exact English word for this. Being “maginhawa” correlates with salvation, according to Filipino Theologians Fr. Jose de Mesa, Timoteo Gener, and Melba Maggay. Hence, for us, we can somewhat imagine, though not fully, the exceeding joy of a person who desires or experience a macaristic life.
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This kind of reward is only given to those who can pass the standard of Christ—indeed, no one can, unless we are in Christ. While in our passage (19-21), the word “treasure” is in each verse. This repetition also implies its significance. Having the “reward” principle of achieving the ginhawa in our life, let us explore our passage that pertains to where we ought to lay upon our treasures.
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Main Idea:
Human praise is fleeting, temporal, and earthly. It is not a matter of if human treasures will eventually be lost somehow but only a matter of when. As seen in the first two verses of our passage, storing our treasures—our most valued things in life, so precious for us—in unsafe, unsecured, and risky places will only harm it. It is unwise, indeed, to store things in this world since they can be stolen, expires, it can be broken, and destroyed.
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While, the early disciples, applying the words of Christ, know what it means to devote their treasures to heavenly things, investing in their inner lives (internal), to their personal intimacy with Christ, and for eternal matters in God’s kingdom. Let us learn these three things.  

 

  1. Internal

Meditation of the Word

Putting the Scriptures as supreme authority in one’s faith and practices. The Word points to the promises of God. It enlightens and satisfies one’s soul.  Wherein, self-examination is also inseparable from the Bible, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. By looking to one’s inner life using Spirit’s lens in Christ is essential.
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Prayer
Joining your hands together portrays our full dependence on His divine wisdom, love, and goodness. We tell God, our Father, who delights to listen to the voice of His children that we are crying out for the kingdom to come. Focus your prayers on Christ, because Christ perfumes the prayers of saints.
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Lord, listen to us, listen to your beloved children. Break our hearts, so you can heal us once more. Empty our spirit, so you can fill us again with your overflowing love. Only through these that we can once again recognize to put God first in our lives. Actually, not just first in our lives, but all over our lives even in the little things that we do.  

 

  1. Personal

Worship

Divine worship includes the character of the heart whenever we sing praises to God. When we sing, we should prepare our hearts beforehand. When we enter the hall and heard the prelude, we need to realize that corporate worship is now starting. Remember, we are a body, we cannot be functioning well by doing a lot of things differently and simultaneously.
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Service
Communion with the saints, nourishing one another, and keeping the sabbath are also internal witnesses that manifest towards service, which are also external. It is in the community of believers where saints see the glimpse of heaven’s worship. All the internal witnesses cause believers to grasp the idea of peace, comfort, and dependence on God through prayer, His Word, sacraments, and fellowship. These display genuine faith and hearten assurance in the soul.
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Giving
We need to realize that everything that we have, actually, all came from God. You also need to learn the principle of stewardship, sowing and reaping, and generous giving. Furthermore, God’s ownership (Deut. 8:17-19; Haggai 2:8) permeates the Scriptures. A pastor shared the four kinds of church givers: (1) God-tippers, (2) regular givers, (3) tithers, and (4) generous givers.  

 

  1. Eternal

Ordinances

Participating in the ordinances nurtures and strengthens faith as it is an outward manifestation of an inward reality of receiving the grace of God. As our souls are troubled by the messiness of one’s state but it reminds believers to focus on the work of Christ—in his death and resurrection.
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Kingdom of God
In the coming of Christ, the kingdom of God will be final and completed, thus we desire and pray for the coming of Christ, because in the completion, pain, injustices, indifference in social issues, and sufferings will no longer exist. This is certain. As for now, we conduct ourselves in the manner of a kingdom citizen. That is what it means to live a gospel-worthy life. A life wholly devoted to Christ’s kingship and kingdom. Commit yourselves to Christ and be part of His kingdom. Rest in His promises.
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Proclaiming the Gospel
Lastly, to share the gospel is the greatest priority we ought to put in our daily dealings. Let me tell you this, if you are struggling in proclaiming Christ, you are struggling in loving God.  
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Conclusion:
The last verse declares that whatever people value is who they truly are (v. 21). In the “Shema,” we are told to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. Let us just put an emphasis on the heart since it is in our text today. We ought to give ALL our hearts to God, how much again? Does it say to give just parts of it? Or just half? No, right? The Bible states that we give our hearts fully, all-in-all, wholly, truly, completely, its totality to Christ, our Lord.
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Now, let us ask ourselves. Do we really treasure Christ in our life? Or do I prioritize other things in my life over Him? Do I obsess over earning a salary for material things? Or do I cherish and entrust everything unto Him?  
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Ptr. John Paul Arceno
March 7, 2021
*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.

 

Recommended Readings/ References:

Andrew S. Ballitch, and J. Stephen Yuille, The Wholesome Doctrine of the Gospel: Faith and Love in the Writing of William Perkins (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2020), 108-9.

Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (NY: HarperOne, 1998), 20-21, 126-40.

Richard Sibbes, “The Saint’s Happiness,” in The Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Grosart, 7 vols. (1862-1864; reprint, Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 7:73.

Sibbes, “The Soul’s Conflict with Itself with Itself,” in Works, 1:148-9.

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Sibbes, “A Glimpse of Glory,” in Works, 7:496.

Steve Weaver and Michael A. G. Haykin, Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 79, 83-4.

Introduction:
Both the family and the church have the duty to guide another, and be responsible for training and equipping the next generation. Instead of seeing the youth or other parts of the church body as a separate entity to the point of perceiving it as a parachurch. Why not let us explore God’s Word today through Paul’s letter to the Ephesus.

Background:
The overall context in this chapter is located in verse 1, the church called to be imitators of God. Of course, we need to know the revealed God, Jesus Christ for us to imitate God. How do we know Christ? It is through His revelation, His Word, the Bible.

Narrowing this command to imitate God in Christ, the church is compared to a family. Reading through our passage, the viewpoint is that the church as a family ought to live in submission to one another—called humility through a mutual union. Also, the church is called to love just like how a husband loves his wife. Finally, the church needs to exemplify honor to one another just as how the children need to show respect and obey their parents.

Main Idea:
Apostle Paul explained to the churches at Ephesus concerning unity and imitating God. He used the mystery of being one in marriage, and how the church is in union with Christ. Going beyond being one in Christ as a husband and wife, Paul included the children who must exemplify honor. Paul is describing a biblical image of what a church is, and at the same time, what a godly family is. This might sound too good to be true, but apart from God’s grace, this principle—the one that exemplifies humility, love, and honor—is unachievable. Indeed, no family is perfect, but any imperfect family can walk in a godly manner.

  1. The first principle is Humility/ Submission. Let us check verses 22-24.

When wives are called by God to submit to their husbands, it has no implication of inferiority–but rather is done in their highest eternal interest.

Understanding this submission in context, we need to read the prior verse. In verse 21, it states about a mutual submission to one another as followers of Christ. Adding to that, this submission is compared with the church’s submission to Christ. Christ being the head of the church does not mean coercing one’s will to submit. It is faith-based.

Let me sight some biblical samples on submission. First, in Philippians 2:5-11, the incarnation scene. Christ submitted Himself to the divine plan of the Father. This submission does not show that Christ is inferior to the Father, but Christ as the Son fulfilling His role by subjecting upon the Father’s will. This is similar to Christ’s resurrection presented in 1 Corinthians 15:27-28, submission for God to be all in all. Lastly, in Luke 22:42, Christ praying and depending on the Father’s will. Humility through submission does not mean inferiority.

Monica, the mother of Augustine, “who was faithful, was weeping for… [and] pleaded all the more insistently and with free-flowing tears” that Augustine would come to faith in Christ. While Susanna Wesley, who had 19 children but 9 died as infants. Despite the complexities and busyness of Susanna as a mother nurturing her 10 children, she finds time to pray two hours every day. She covers her head with her apron and sits on her favorite kitchen chair with her favorite Bible for her quiet time. She prays for her whole household in that unique prayer room she made.

2. The second principle is Love.

Husbands, do not expect great submission without you following the duty of loving your wife. This kind of love goes beyond the world’s definition of love. Love here in Greek is agape, dispositional, and unconditional. A kind of love that is willing to give oneself to death for his beloved. In context, this love is Christ’s kind of love, who gave Himself to death for his church. A self-giving kind of love.

This is a purposeful love. A love that will point your wives to holiness, to intimacy with Christ, and forming a godly walk in your family. Your love for your wife a reflection of how you love yourself. Self-love, in the husband’s context, should be a self-giving love since you and your wife are one.

Now, through God’s grace, your love goes beyond this practical simple. Husbands, take note that even when both you love banks are at a low level, you ought to still love your spouse, choose to love her daily, and love her more because this is how Christ modeled His love for us and His church. This is the godly way of love; the gracious way of loving.

3. The third principle, Honor.

Children, listen to this, the secret to having a long life is to honor our parents. So, eating pancit is fake news because we know it makes our life longer. Funny, right? But this life does not speak about just having more years in the world, but it speaks about a flourishing life, a life that is blessed. In Proverbs 1:8, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Youth, you need wisdom from the adults. Do not take this for granted. This is both essential and a privilege.


Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.8


In short, in everything, parents ought to exemplify a godly living (check 6:4). Why do we expect our children to be lovers of the Word while we, as parents, are lovers of the world or idolizers of your works? If we are serious to model to the young people that we ought to prioritize God’s Word, then we make time for it, not just try to fit it into our schedules. 


Conclusion:

Loving, submitting, and honoring one another within the family in Christ are all inseparable. Respect, indeed, is earned and given. A father ought to exemplify a life that is honorable and worthy of respect. Likewise, a mother ought to show the greatest model of love which is submission or humility. Just as how Christ humbled Himself, the mothers have the privilege to be the tower of humility. Furthermore, children ought to honor their parents, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, this command is given. Give them the utmost respect and trust them in their wisdom about life. Of course, trust also is needed for the parents to their children. You also need to trust them; they need that for their personal development.

Lastly, trust God. We all have the duty, as a family and as a church, to equip each other. But only God can truly transform one’s heart and life. Let us take part in our duties and entrust everything else to God.  

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno February 28, 2021


*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.

 

 

Text: Acts 17:1-15

 Baptist Identity: Why Am I A Baptist? (Sermon Manuscript) 

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INTRODUCTION:

Today, we will talk about our identity as Baptist. I consider this topic essential for us to narrow down our identity in the broad Christian community.

BAPTISTS: (B) Biblical Authority, (A) Autonomy of the Local Church, (P) Priesthood of all Believers, (T) Two Ordinances: Baptism and Lord’s Supper, (I) Individual Soul Liberty, (S) Saved (or Baptized) Church Membership, (T) Two Offices: Pastor (or Elders) and Deacon, and (S) Separation of Church and State (or Religious Freedom).

Walter Shurden summarizes it into four distinctives: (1) Bible Freedom, (2) Soul Freedom, (3) Church Freedom, (4) and Religious Freedom.

Bible freedom pertains to the freedom to have a personal Bible and to interpret it. Because during the Ancient to Medieval times, the interpretation of the Scriptures was monopolized by the Bishops, Pope, or those who sit on the throne of the cathedrals. Soul liberty also known as the priesthood of all believers pertains to our right and responsibility to deal with God without the imposition of anyone or anything. We have direct access to God alone also known as our privilege of access. Church freedom is local autonomy or self-governance. Lastly, religious freedom is the biggest contribution of the Baptists to the New World, America, the British Isles, and part of my research, the Philippines.

 

BACKGROUND:

Moreover, for today, I want to expose three characteristics of the Early Church specifically during Paul’s missionary journey in Macedonia. As you can see on the PowerPoint, this map shows the second missionary journey of Paul and Silas. They both met Timothy in that first arrow there in Lystra.

When they were at Troas, Paul had a vision from God to go to Macedonia to preach the gospel. And there, in the second arrow, where they met Lydia and other converted believers to Christianity. But they had some conflicts and were imprisoned. After being released, they went to Thessalonica which is where our passage starts.

 

MAIN IDEA:

  1. People of the Book

In verse 11, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

In here, we can clearly read that when Paul, Silas, and later with Timothy, preached the good news about Jesus Christ in Berea, these believers responded by devotionally examining the Scriptures. How? Receiving it with all eagerness. How often? Daily.

This thorough examination of the Bible happened at the Gainsborough Church, Trent Valley—where John Smyth studied the Bible with some Puritan ministers for nine months where they agreed to become a Separatist Church by 1607. This eagerness was termed as “Gainsborough Principle” in seeking for the truth, “…to walk in all his ways, made known, or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavors…the Lord assisting them.” The italicized phrase means that it is an ongoing retrieval or exploration of the truth even up to this day.

  1. Persevered Persecutions

In verse 5, some Jews and other people formed a mob to tried to persecute Paul and his companions. They did not see him, so they just dragged Jason (who was helping Paul) to the city court and made him pay for the disturbance. The same mob also followed them at Berea, but Paul was able to go to Athens before they arrived (vv 13-15). This kind of persecution also happened before they arrived in Thessalonica, in Acts 16:22-24 they were beaten and imprisoned.

This kind of suffering is what Christ described as sharing His suffering with us. That when we preached the gospel, not all will believe, some will listen, but at the same time, many will persecute us and disagree with us. These arguments against Christianity are evident in our school system, frowning upon those students who are coming from the Christian worldview.

  1. Pursuer of Missions

It is in the context of missions that are passage is found. Paul was doing missionary work together with Silas and Timothy. This journey was not the first one, but the second one for Paul. Yet, as seen on the map I presented a while ago, we can see that Paul planted churches in each city where he landed. He devoted himself to the Word of God and wrestled with the people by proclaiming to them the gospel of Christ. And despite the persecutions they experienced, they never stopped proclaiming the gospel to all people. They were pursuers of missions—the Great Commission which we ought to obey.

Personal evangelism, church missions, and outreach are not only for those who are talented or gifted in evangelism. We, the followers of Christ, have the duty to evangelize. It is not a separate ministry nor a department of the church. Each one must do it.

I love what Ptr. Adrian Rogers said, “No matter how faithfully you attend church, how generously you give, how circumspectly you walk, how eloquently you teach, or how beautifully you sing, if you are not endeavoring to bring people to Jesus Christ  you are not right with God.” Ministries are important, but evangelism is vital.

 

CONCLUSION:

Indeed, the Baptist wanted to conform to how the New Testament describes the early church. Though we know that these characteristics that we learned are not exclusively evident only in the Baptist churches, but also with other denominations. But in here, the Baptists went beyond the Reformed Tradition, the Puritans, and other Protestants that dissented from the state church. They sought the true church as seen in the Bible; by just exploring a short passage in Acts 17, we saw the characteristics that are evident in being a Baptist.

We are known as the People of the Book, the early Baptist by devoting their time studying the Scriptures together concluded that the only Lord and King that they should follow is Christ. And Christ’s word, which is the Bible, is the only authoritative revelation of God for our faith and practices. From there, the Baptist movement realized what a true church is; a true church is composed of regenerated members who confessed their faith through baptism and are covenanted with each other. Furthermore, despite many persecutions, the Baptists are known for being missional.

I hope and pray, as a Baptist church, may we also reflect and exemplify the early church at Berea, “who examined the Scriptures daily with great eagerness” (v. 11). As well as the early Baptist church that had the Gainsborough Principle, who studied the Scriptures devotedly together for nine months and continuously examining it for the pursuit of truth.

I urge you, church, to be serious in our Bible studies, participate in it; likewise, in listening to the Word during Sundays, and in your personal moment with God. Not just because we are Baptists, but because Jesus is our King!

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno
February 21, 2021


*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.

 

 

 

Text: John 13:34-35; also 1 John 4:7-21

Marks of Our Identity: The Church Defined (Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

We have lost the art of wondering about love. What I mean is to be in awe of love. What is love nowadays?

 

Background:

This missing out on the awe and wonder is also the same to our church nowadays. At first, when we were still new Christian, we are on fire.

Yet after several years, even your neighbors do not know that you are a Christian. How about your workmates? Do they know what church you belong to?

Last Sunday, I asked you if do we bear the marks of Jesus? Today, we will talk about the distinguishing mark as followers of Christ—specifically, what does it mean to be a church.

In the last verses in John 13, this part is known to be a preparation of Christ’s farewell discourse to His disciples.

 

Main Idea:

The first mark of our identity as a church is having the mark of Christ, the Love Personified.

In our passages, it is evident that the source of our love is Christ. It is Christ who was speaking here; he was talking to His disciples. We cannot truly love unless someone gives us love or truly loves us. Again, we have heard this statement, “you cannot share or give something that you do not have.” In the same manner, how can a person truly love without experiencing love or knowing love?

This identity is connected to our individual identity. Remember last Sunday, that at the very core of our identity and the very covering of our identity are both in Christ. Likewise, as a church—the body of Christ—we are marked by His identity as a loving church because Christ is the love personified.

What does it mean when I say experiencing Christ within the church? That is our second distinguishing mark called Love Covenanted (or Established).

Now that we have understood that it was Christ who gives love and love itself, then the next thing to realize is that this talk was given to His chosen people. Christ was talking to His disciples in a manner where He sees the unfolding of events in the future.

We need to express this love that we have to someone else, in a broader sense, to a community. We are a self-loving being, just as God is, but the difference is that God is love, and we depend on Him as the source of our love. With this truth in our hearts, we realize that “love” as a distinguishing mark of the church is natural and essential.

Hence, just as God made a covenant to His people out of love, we also manifest this love, which was made visible or established. That is why we need to acknowledge our covenantal relationship with each other as a church. Let us read our Church Covenant (2001, updated 2011): (see  Church Covenant here )

Christ is the first and greatest mark of our identity as a church; second, Christ being made visible through the Spirit’s work in the church as a covenanted people. Lastly, our final mark, Christ being proclaimed in this loving community. Our third mark is Love Proclaimed.

Back in our passage, the phrase in verse 35, “By this, all people will know…” means that others, the world, our community, your workplaces, or even your family will know that you are a Christian.

By loving one another we proclaim God’s love and we model the true church as a loving church. Indeed, to be a church is to be a loving community.

In summary, as a church, first and foremost, we portray Christ as his body; second, we exemplify this love by loving one another as a covenanted family; finally, we proclaim this love to others by living in and living out as a model of what it means to really love.

 

Conclusion:

The true church bears the distinguishing mark of Christ; this mark of identity is known as LOVE. This love is personified in Christ, made visible through His covenantal relationship with His chosen people—the church, and ought to be proclaimed as a manifestation of being the true church.

For my final words, “Live your life by loving Christ, loving the Church, and your Community.”

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno
February 14, 2021


*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.